While plants can make a lovely decorating statement, poisonous plants can kill pets if eaten. Even some of the most common decorative plants and flowers, such as daffodils and tulips, can be deadly to dogs.
Pet plant poisoning can be a veterinary emergency that requires immediate medical attention. But you can save your pet’s life simply by steering clear of the worst plant offenders, both inside and outside your home.
Puppies are often affected more than older dogs due to their lack of experience and relatively smaller size. Breeds, like Labrador Retrievers, that are well known for their indiscriminate appetites are at higher than average risk too. Paws, mouths, and sometimes ears and eyes also are vulnerable to the spiky parts of plants.
What Plants Are Poisonous?
Some of the most dangerous plants are also some of the most popular, including holiday favorites and garden mainstays. It's best to assume plants aren't good for your puppy and try to keep it from eating them. This includes plants like belladonna, English ivy, daffodils, tulips, foxglove, holly, rhubarb, yew, azalea, caladium, and nightshade. Keep your puppy away from these and all similar plants.
Be particularly aware of plants around holidays, as these can also be deadly and are often brought into the home at times of maximum distraction. Plants like poinsettias cause only mild problems, such as excess salivation or gastrointestinal irritation. Keeping these out of reach of curious paws may be sufficient to protect your pups. Even something that isn't inherently poisonous can be dangerous too; swallowed Christmas tree needles, for example, can damage the delicate lining of a puppy's gastrointestinal tract.
In the spring, popular Easter flowers pose the greatest risks. Easter lily, tiger lily, rubrum lily, Japanese show lily, and some species of the day lily can cause kidney failure in cats. Other types like peace lilies, calla lilies, lily of the valley, and palm lilies can cause problems for both cats and dogs.
Symptoms of Plant Poisoning in Puppies
Symptoms of plant poisonings are specific to the type of plant eaten, for example:
- Amaryllis: Vomiting, diarrhea, depression, drooling, tremors
- Azalea: Vomiting, diarrhea, weakness, heart problems
- Daffodil: Vomiting, diarrhea, drooling. Large amounts (especially of bulbs) can cause heart arrhythmias, low blood pressure, and tremors
- Dieffenbachia: Intense oral irritation, vomiting, difficulty swallowing
- English ivy: Vomiting, diarrhea, stomach pain, drooling
- Holly: Vomiting and diarrhea
- Jerusalem cherry: Vomiting, diarrhea, seizures, difficulty breathing, and shock
- Lily-of-the-valley: Vomiting, fast or slow heart rate, low blood pressure, coma, seizures
- Mistletoe: Vomiting, diarrhea, difficulty breathing, and slow heart rate
- Mother-in-law’s tongue (snake plant): Vomiting and diarrhea
- Rhubarb: Vomiting and drooling
- Tulips: Vomiting, diarrhea, drooling, especially if bulbs are eaten
- Yew: Vomiting, difficulty breathing, seizures, sudden death without signs due to heart failure
This is not a complete list of plants that can be toxic to dogs. If you suspect that your pet has eaten a plant, particularly if you are starting to notice any signs of illness, call your veterinarian immediately.
Treatment for Puppy Plant Poisoning
If you see your pet with one or more of these signs, particularly if a suspect plant is within paw's reach, get help immediately. Rapid treatment can save the puppy’s life.
Call your veterinarian for advice. They may recommend that you induce vomiting, give your puppy water or milk to drink, take a wait-and-see approach, or bring your puppy to them immediately for treatment. Never induce vomiting or give your pet any type of treatment without first speaking to your veterinarian. Making the pet vomit the wrong poisonous plant or giving the wrong "antidote" could make a serious situation even more deadly.
How to Induce Vomiting if Your Dog Is Poisoned
It's important to stress that you should consult with your veterinarian or an animal control center before giving your pet anything to induce vomiting. Most vets recommend avoiding ipecac or salt, two old-fashioned methods that can have serious side effects.
The other common method of inducing vomiting in a human, putting your finger down your throat to activate the gag reflex, is also not recommended for getting a dog to throw up. You're likely to get bitten for your trouble, and it can hurt the dog.
The home remedy most commonly recommended by veterinarians to induce vomiting at home in a dog is 3 percent hydrogen peroxide administered by mouth. Your veterinarian can recommend how much to give, but it's a good idea to keep a bottle on hand in case of an emergency. The hydrogen peroxide will foam a bit, and your puppy may not like the taste, but it should cause it to vomit within a few minutes.
How to Prevent Death From Plant Poisoning
Keep poisonous plants out of your home and yard. If you suspect that your pet may have gotten into something dangerous, call your veterinarian or an animal poison control center for accurate advice.
ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center provides a database of common pet poisons and is available for telephone consultations in case of a poisoning emergency. You may be charged a fee for the consultation.
While there are ways to treat accidental poisoning in your pet, preventing plant poisoning is ideal. Choose only pet-friendly varieties for your garden and home.
10 Garden Plants That Are Toxic to Pets. UC Davis.
Toxic and Non-Toxic Plant List-Dogs. ASPCA Animal Poison Control.
Atropa bella-donna. NC State Extension.
Poinsettia. ASPCA Animal Poison Control.
Lovely Lilies and Curious Cats: A Dangerous Combination. U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
Orito, Kensuke et al. Safety and efficacy of intravenous administration for tranexamic acid-induced emesis in dogs with accidental ingestion of foreign substances. Journal Of Veterinary Medical Science. 2017;79(12):1978-1982. doi:10.1292/jvms.17-0463